Is Working on Your Computer Hurting Your Productivity?

Computers have revolutionized the way students work - but that's not 100% a good thing. With the allure of the Internet just a click away from more legitimate homework, some students may need to make an honest assessment of whether spending study time on the computer is helping or hurting.

By Sarah Wright

computer work

Techno Fun

With the amount of time we spend typing on computers, working by hand or with analog methods (like typewriters) may seem pointless. After all, why would you bother to try to write out notes when you can type much faster and more legibly? Why write out a first draft of a paper when that means that you'll have to type it out later? What's the point of going to the library or bookstore for a book that you can pull up instantly on your computer?

There's an easy answer to those questions: distraction. Unless you totally eschew blogs, social media, YouTube, e-mail, chat, digital music and using your computer as a TV, your PC serves two purposes. It's something you use for school, sure, but it's also a portal to fun. And when you're working on a boring assignment, that fun sure looks enticing.

An Honest Assessment

Think about it. How often do you 'reward' yourself for working by granting permission to go to your favorite time-wasting website for a specific amount of time? How often does that specific amount of time stretch longer than anticipated, while the amount of work required to earn the reward shrinks into nothing?

For all but the most disciplined of student computer users, the reality is that working on the computer can often be an excuse to use the Internet or do something else that's more fun than trying to write a paper. Though it's not always a big deal, this type of distraction can cause some fairly serious problems, especially if you're on a deadline. It's not something that everyone wants to admit, but at a certain point, it becomes more difficult to get work done with a computer than it would be to do it by hand.

Analog: Boring and Better?

If you find yourself repeatedly getting sucked in to a game, funny video, Facebook stalking session or Wikipedia rabbit hole that has absolutely nothing to do with the work you're supposed to be doing, you should consider whether it's having a serious negative impact on your learning efficency. Maybe you're still able to get your work done on time, but are you doing your best work? Could you do better if you weren't so distracted?

Finding that your work is suffering because of technological distraction is cause for some serious decision-making. Do you think you can learn to discipline yourself into not giving in to distraction? If not, maybe you should look into using analog methods of studying and working whenever possible. For a generation of students raised on the Internet, this may seem unrealistic. But talk to your professors. Many of them managed to be academically successful well before the Internet became the funhouse it is today.

Computers can have other negative impacts on students as well.

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